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One of India's star performers in the AFC U-22 Championship Qualifiers, the defender speaks about his experiences during the tournament, Arthur Papas & about the coming season....

India ended their AFC U-22 Championship Qualifiers campaign on a slightly anticlimactic note, as the Blue Tigers lost 4-0 to Oman.

While the team failed to secure qualification for the main Championship, there were plenty of positives to take from the competition.

One of them was the form of the imposing Prathamesh Maulingker in defense, as the Pailan Arrows defender formed a solid partnership with Souvik Ghosh.

While he sounded understandably downbeat after the defeat against Oman, the young stopper back was quick to point out the positives he had personally gained from the tour in an exclusive chat with Goal.com.

“For me this was a great experience, as I got to learn a lot. I feel so much more confident now. It was my first international tournament and it is so different from the I-League. You get an idea of what real competitions actually are like, when you face teams like Iraq, Oman and UAE.”

“While these teams are technically and tactically very strong, physically I don’t think there is much difference, and we can match them there,” he continued.

“I realized that it is not that difficult to play against big teams like Iraq and UAE (United Arab Emirates), and with the correct mindset we can beat teams like UAE I feel,” he further added.

The youngster was glowing in his praise of Arthur Papas...

The Arrows player also spoke about how hurt he and his team-mates were after the clash against Oman. He revealed, “I cried after the Oman game, as I never expected that result. But I guess this is how football is, and you got to expect the unexpected.”

Much has been said about how Arthur Papas has revolutionized the way this group of players play over the past few weeks. Maulingker was similarly glowing in his praise of the Australian.

 “Till now he is the best coach I have trained under. No one in the team will say anything against him. On and even off the field he is a top human being.”

“He always motivates me to be more confident and to work harder. He advises me to keep the ball more.”

"Indian coaches know to play only one formation"

Elaborating more about Papas’ footballing philosophy, Maulingker felt it was the change in formation that is the biggest change the U-22 coach has made to the playing style of his charges, something which Indian coaches could learn from. He said, “It is the formation that we play that is the biggest change he (Papas) has made. Indian coaches know to play only one formation, which is a 4-4-2.”

"Now we do not just kick the ball away"

“Now we do not just kick the ball away. Under him (Papas), we want to keep the ball more and try to pass it,” the centre-back continued.

Though he impressed with the U-22 side, the Pailan Arrows player feels he still has to progress further before he becomes a part of the senior side. When asked about his chances to be a part of the senior squad, he stated, “Oh I don’t think I can say anything yet, as I as of now do not have much experience. But if I get a chance, I will give it my best shot. I did meet Wim Koevermans when he came to Muscat, he seemed to be a nice person.”

The player hopes that he and the other Pailan Arrows players carry the same form into the next I-League season, after last season’s mediocre results.

What about Pailan Arrows?

Speaking more about last season’s disappointments, Prathamesh revealed, “It just was not working out last year (for the Arrows). We just could not find the finishing touch and then we lost our coach mid-way through the season. Everything seemed to be going wrong.”

“We did not then have a head coach and Sujit (Chakraborty) Sir had to take over and we suffered from injuries,” he continued.

“But next season we shall play the same style of football as we have with the India U-22 side. While we shall not have players like Jeje Lalpekhlua and Lalrindika Ralte, we will have Shilton D’Silva back, which is a boost for us.”

Finally, about his own personal expectations for the next season, the youngster stressed, “First and foremost I want to play all the matches without any injuries, from which I suffered lasts season. That is my main goal for next season."

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